The PTO-supported Big Husky Triathlon is the next major event on the elite triathlon calendar as a strong field descends on Huskisson on the east coast of the county.
The venue, situated some 200km south of Sydney, will host a field of 36 professionals – 14 women and 22 men – with 19 PTO members participating.
We look at the stars in contention to take home a prize pool which has been boosted by the PTO to the tune of AUD $35,000.
Salthouse coming off Goondiwindi win
Confidence will be high for PTO World Ranked #22 Ellie Salthouse after she romped to victory in the ‘Hell of the West’ triathlon at the Festival of Hell Goondiwindi in early February.
The Australian produced a stunning display at the event in Queensland, winning by 4:45 from New Zealand’s Amelia Watkinson.
Ellie dominated from the opening swim, opening a lead of just under two minutes. She maintained that advantage over Watkinson through the bike leg before pulling away on the run.
The 27-year-old enjoyed success in 2020 with victory in the Queensland Triathlon series and a third-place finish at the Hervey Bay 100 event – behind the winner Watkinson.
There is no doubt Ellie is in fine form heading into Big Husky, and few would bet against adding another podium to a resumé which now includes 11 half-distance wins to date.
“I’m super excited to be heading to the Big Husky Triathlon and (fingers crossed) holding the banner above my head for the second time this year,” she said.
McKenna in the groove
Another athlete who heads for Big Husky in fantastic form is 29-year-old Australian Steven McKenna – who also triumphed at the ‘Hell of the West’ races at the start of February.
Unlike Ellie though, PTO World #58 Steve was pushed all the way to earn a nailbiting victory. Compatriot Simon Hearn finished just 10 seconds behind in second, with fellow Big Husky contender Tim Reed a further 1:25 back.
The four-times Australian Triathlete of the Year broke the course record en route to victory.
Steven had also emerged victorious from November’s Hervey Bay 100 triathlon, once again defeating Hearn to claim victory in a time of 3:18:18. Also in the field that day were Reed and Scott Bayvel, two PTO members who will again be hoping to challenge in Huskisson.
Watkinson keen to repeat 2020 success
New Zealand’s PTO-ranked #18 Amelia Watkinson will likely fight it out at the front of the field with Ellie Salthouse in round three of a budding rivalry in recent months.
Watkinson got the better of her Australian rival in November’s PTO-supported Hervey Bay race, taking victory with a time of 3:34:28. She triumphed by 7:27 from Barbara Riveros with Ellie almost 10 minutes off the pace.
However, when the pair met at ‘Hell of the West’ earlier this month, Salthouse turned the tables to take the top step on the podium. Amelia was almost five minutes behind in second.
In addition to that win at Hervey Bay, Amelia was in exceptional form in late 2020. She earned victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast and IRONMAN Cairns in September, and few would bet against her challenging for the victory on Sunday.
Van Berkel returns to the fold
Tim van Berkel competes for the first time at a major event since Cairns in September 2020, where he finished second behind Max Neumann over full distance.
The 36-year-old had been scheduled to compete at Hervey Bay in November, but a virus hampered his preparation, and he was forced to withdraw.
Since then, the Australian has been in training for the 2021 season, in readiness for his debut this weekend.
With a total of nine wins in IRONMAN 70.3 and Challenge Series competition, Tim will be expected to figure at the business end on Sunday.
“Kicking off 2021 season at the Big Husky Triathlon supported by PTO,” he said.
“Pumped to be back on the start line for a stacked Aussie field battling it out for the Australian Long Course Championship.”
Renee keen to continue rankings rise
Another contender making her 2021 debut this weekend is PTO World #66 Renee Kiley. The Australian last competed in the PTO 2020 Championship at in December, finishing 31st in the strongest field ever assembled by the sport.
Renee’s 2020 form, which included some excellent performances, catapulted her into the top 100 of the PTO World Rankings.
A sixth-place finish at IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong and a fifth at IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast showcased her ability to compete towards the front of elite fields.
“Very happy to be involved in an event that the PTO is supporting the Big Husky Triathlon,” Renee said on social media.
“They continue to value and help professionals more than anyone else in the sport.”